Every week Jonathan Last of The Bulwark publishes a triumphalist post counting down the time left until Election Day, believing that a Biden win is now a foregone conclusion. Today’s entry is titled “A Victory or a Landslide?”
But as impressive as Biden’s national lead is right now, I can’t go along with that thinking for two reasons. One: Do not underestimate 2020’s ability to surprise. If the last six months have taught us anything about politics and, well, the universe, it’s that this year anything can happen.
Two: Do not underestimate Democrats’ ability to blow an easy lay-up. For further reading, see “Clinton, Hillary.”
I mean, if they’re now running on a campaign of woke-purging *Mt. Rushmore*, a Trump comeback seems not just possible but likely.
Eventually they figured out that a platform of irredentism on behalf on Native Americans replete with smashing idols of Washington and Lincoln might not help win over those ex-Republican suburban voters the party is courting, as the tweet above was soon deleted. Important context, though: The DNC posted that “Down with Mt. Rushmore” tweet just hours after this unfolded in New York’s Washington Square Park.
Washington Square Park, NYC. pic.twitter.com/PEidU4Njw8
— BILL HEMMER (@BillHemmer) June 29, 2020
— BILL HEMMER (@BillHemmer) June 29, 2020
With news circulating on social media of new icons of Washington having been defaced, the Democrats’ instinctive response was essentially, “Don’t forget the big one in South Dakota too.”
The nominee has been quiet about left-wing idol-smashing, at least with respect to the Founding Fathers. When will he speak up, asks William McGurn?
Notwithstanding calls for Mr. Biden to declare himself on the issue, he’s clearly betting that a press corps that managed to ignore a former Senate staffer’s charge of sexual assault for weeks won’t press him on the statues and the mayhem. No doubt he is betting correctly.
On paper, this should be an easy call. The Democratic voters, especially African-American voters, who made Mr. Biden their nominee did so on the belief they were going with the moderate. But Mr. Biden has been under relentless pressure to move left, and he’s obliged by flip-flopping on many positions that made him a moderate—from his support of the 1994 crime bill to his initial rejection of the Green New Deal.
Many observers have noted that in 1968 Richard Nixon successfully campaigned on restoring law and order. But Mr. Biden knows that what made Hubert Humphrey look weak wasn’t just Nixon. It was also the antiwar protesters causing the chaos in the streets, who didn’t trust him and didn’t mind making him look bad. Mr. Biden is all too aware that a progressive mob that doesn’t bother to distinguish between Gens. Grant and Lee might just as easily turn on him.
Trump continues to highlight the spate of vandalism on Twitter in order to put pressure on Biden and the Democratic leadership, a rare case lately of him staking out a position that aligns him with majority opinion against the left instead of vice versa:
We are tracking down the two Anarchists who threw paint on the magnificent George Washington Statue in Manhattan. We have them on tape. They will be prosecuted and face 10 years in Prison based on the Monuments and Statues Act. Turn yourselves in now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2020
It’s no-win for Biden. If he calls for laying off images of Washington and Lincoln, the wokesters will be pissed. If he hedges on it, everyone else will be. I think his strategy is to keep his head down, hope that the vandalism burns itself out soon, and then comment once people’s feelings on the subject aren’t as inflamed as they are presently. If he speaks up now, he’s effectively siding with Trump against progressives, a dangerous place for him to be. He still needs the left’s support this fall. If he speaks up a month from now, after the idol-smashing has died down (hopefully) and Trump has moved on to other topics, a few politely discouraging words about defacing statues of Washington will be more easily tolerated.
Besides, the left knows that they can get back to it once the election is safely won. It’s not like President Biden’s going to crack down on them if they tear down the Lincoln Emancipation statue in D.C., right?
Here’s “The View” having a loooong debate about the Teddy Roosevelt statue outside the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. That one’s coming down too but in an orderly way, on the museum’s own orders. As for Last’s questionable certainty about a Biden victory, I should note in his defense that all of the recent vandalism is playing out against a backdrop of Trump’s polling sliding ever further downward, to the point where he’s at risk today of slipping below 40 percent in the latest RCP head-to-head tracker. There’s no cause-and-effect there: Obviously Trump has taken a hit because of how he’s handled the pandemic and the anti-racism protests, not because America’s suddenly in love with the idea of splattering George Washington with paint. The point, rather, is that his best efforts to gain some culture-war traction on this issue and pull some wary voters back into his orbit due to fears of left-wing radicalism aren’t paying off. They haven’t stopped the slide. Maybe they will if the latest COVID-19 outbreak calms down and the protests continue to fade and the electorate can turn its full attention to this subject, but those are huge “ifs.” Would anyone bet at this point on a sustained “quiet period” for coronavirus before November?
Update: Didn’t take long for this post to become outdated. His answer here is not a model of cogency, let us say, but someone put him on the spot during a speech today by asking about the monuments and he did in fact distinguish between the likes of Washington and Columbus, on the one hand, and Confederates on the other. We’ll see how leftists react.
Joe Biden says that the government has an “obligation” to protect monuments to people like Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus pic.twitter.com/OMsKDU4ras
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 30, 2020